Local educators ready for new standardized tests

California's students must take standardized tests in both English and math next spring, counter to previous plans that called for students to be tested in just one subject or the other in the first year of a new testing system.

The change is being cheered in Sonoma County as a way to give students and teachers a clearer idea of what the new test will look like before results will be counted in the spring of 2015.

No results will be released from exams given in the spring.

"We were hoping the state would make that change because we have been gearing up for the Common Core implementation for quite some time and we want practice," Healdsburg Superintendent Jeff Harding said. "We want to know what the test is going to look like before we take it and we are assessed on the final scores."

"This will show us. This will give us a dry run," he said. "It's sort of like a preseason game. You might as well play in both math and English language arts."

The new test, dubbed "Smarter Balanced" will be unveiled this spring in a testing window of March 18 through June 6. The test will cover topics from the new Common Core curriculum.

The exams this spring, long considered a "test of the test" because results will not be released publicly nor affect the academic standing of schools or districts, will now give students and teachers a broader sense of how the real test will look when it is administered in the spring of 2015.

Sonoma County Schools Superintendent Steven Herrington said the decision to roll out the test with a practice round is a positive about-face from a decade ago when the state unfurled a new testing program with very little training and preparation for students and teachers.

"The way we converted 10 years ago was not appropriate either," he said. "We just dumped one test and went to another. There was no conversion model, no sampling model, just a rollover."

The result was skewed test scores in the first year of implementation, he said.

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